Common Core in the classroom

Across the country, teachers are changing the way they teach in response to Common Core standards.

In Belle Chasse, Louisiana, first-grade teacher Debbie Giroir is cautiously optimistic, according to the Hechinger Report.

Jasmine, a small girl with braids, stands in front of the classroom, sketching out different ways to represent the number: five triangles, five tally marks, 2 + 3 = 5.

“Does anyone have another way we can make five?” Giroir asks. The answers come fast and furiously.

“Five plus zero!”

“Four plus one!”

“I have another way!”

In Giroir’s first grade classroom, traditional math textbooks and worksheets are relics of the past. In their place are “manipulatives”—physical objects such as brightly colored blocks, dice, cubes, popsicle sticks, and dominoes—that students can use to explore the math concepts they are studying. When learning that two plus three equals five, for instance, they can count out the equation using their cubes instead writing it over and over again on a worksheet.

Belle Chasse first graders will spend more time learning how to represent and manipulate small numbers and less time on on measurement and telling time. There’s no time to learn about coins. “Before, they had a little bit of everything, but just didn’t dig deep,” said Giroir.

English teachers are using more nonfiction, reports the California Teachers Association.

At Lincoln High School in San Jose, students compare F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby with an essay, also by Fitzgerald, Echoes of the Jazz Age.

Students are told they have 20 minutes to write a group essay describing “social customs” and “societal norms” of the Roaring ’20s.

. . . Each group has a “scribe” entering the essay dictated by the group into a laptop. Meanwhile, English teacher Ryan Alpers monitors each group’s progress on his own computer via a shared drive on Google Docs, inserting suggestions into their essays to help them along.

In an algebra class at Pioneer High School in Whittier, students answer questions with “brief constructed responses” to show their understanding. “I have adjusted instruction to allow students more time to work together to process and critique the reasoning of others,” says Jessica Sandoval.

Last year, Melissa Anderson would explain unfamiliar words in a story to her first graders before reading it. This year, she tells them to listen to the “gist,” think about what they didn’t understand and discuss it with their “pair-share” partner. “It’s wonderful to see them engaged in active learning,” she says.

About Joanne


  1. Gag – more group work. I can’t blame it all on the CCore, but I wish ed schools, admins and teachers would accept the fact that some kids really HATE it – and it’s horribly inefficient, even if you believe it achieves a worthwhile academic purpose (and I don’t, in most cases).

    • Hear hear, momof4!

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      Kudos from me, too. A VERY inefficient use of time, with too many opportunities to socialize. Oh yeah, and the more adept students do the work for their less adept friends. Especially if it’s a boy trying to impress a girl. But what do I know? I’m just supposed to be a “guide on the side”. You know…while the students “discover” centuries old mathematical rules an procedures.
      /end rant

      • Groups give the most socially powerful kids lots of opportunities for making sure the disfavored kids know they’re disfavored.. You know, while they’re pooling their ignorance of the content.

    • AnotherMomof4 says:

      Yep. More group work. And lots of perfect scores on classroom groupwork, but total failure on individual assessment, at least in my experience with my 3rd grader thus far.

  2. Did they not have manipulatives before? Surely manipulatives are basic equipment in a 1st-grade classroom? It’s great to use them to teach how numbers work, but surely there are only so many times that you can make 5 and have that be new and exciting.

    I’m disturbed by the comment that there is no time for coins. I’ve found coins to be very important and handy–everyone needs to learn money, and they are natural manipulatives that teach place value in a nice, simple way that kids can grasp. Our coin jar has been one of the best manipulatives we’ve ever used.

    • Coins are taught in second grade. They are only taught for that one year. The idea is that this is taught so well during that one year that it is not necessary to revisit it.

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Saxon Math Homeschool edition introduces coins in first grade. The idea is that money is an easy way to teach kids things like place value and decimals and counting by 5s and 10s because they LIKE money…..

    Seems to work pretty well…